Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Street view of Islam...
Islam has been misunderstood and often misinterpreted by Western media, especially with the horror and brutal actions of the suicide bombers and the jihadists, the extremities of the Talibans, the strictness of Iran, the clashes between Shiites and the Sunnis,the antagonism between Hamas and Fatah etc. I fear that some of our non-Muslim friends are also getting jittery and confused. Prof Kay Kim in a TV program ( Debat Agung, August 8) stated blandly that "no one takes the trouble to explain Islam to the (non-Muslim) Malaysians themselves. Robert Teoh, in one of his blogs said that," all religions are good," but the implementation makes it otherwise ( can't remember the exact words!)
There're of course mountains of learned books on the religion of Allah. They'll be full of quotes from the Quran and Hadiths which a non-Muslim ( even a Muslim with no knowledge of Arabic whatsoever) will find impossible to follow and understand.
When I was studying in the US, a studious looking man of about 60 approached me and asked me for a book on "Instant Mohamedan". I just couldn't name one and offerred to tell him the basics.
I think we need to have something like a Street view of Islam, covering just the basics to enable a non-Muslim to understand his/her friend and neighbour better. I have no doubt that even a Malay youth brought up in a modern home with "liberal" and "technocratic" parents have many hang-ups about the religion, especially on the way it is enforced affecting the youths. Why can't we stress just the basic requirements to be a good Muslim and leave the rest to those who're seeking Allah's Grace and Heaven without reserve....
What I fear most are the DISTORTIONS created by the west and the RESTRICTIONS imposed by local ulamas. Between them Islam may appear to be rigid, barbaric, even murderous. Even a young couple holding hands in a park may be dragged to the Syariah Court for indecent behavior!
A street view of Islam would see a Muslim as a normal, friendly man (or woman), who believes in Allah and His Prophets ( Muhammad being the last, pbuh), the Quran, the Angels, Judgment Day and Predestiny. He/she proclaims the belief through the "kalimah" ( recitation): There's no God but Allah and Muhammad His Prophet", prays five times a day, fast in the month of Ramadhan, pay tithes, and does pilgrimage to Mecca to perform the Haj if affordable. He/she is required to do good (amar makruf) and avoid wrongdoings ( nahi munkar) and follow the injuctions of the Quran and the ways of the Prophet ( pbuh) - the sunnah - in conducting all the affairs of life.
Simple isn't it? But each injuction of the al-Quran and Sunnah is subjected to several interpretations by the various theological schools ( Mazhab) and several Imams. That's where the problem begins. And, there's no highest authority to solve
disagreements and coflicts of opinions. Malaysian Muslims generally follow the Syafie school of thought but there are deviants, overt or covert. There are endless controversies surrounding the finer points of Islamic Laws or Fiqh and it is in these regards that a Muslim youth may turn around and say, " Gee.....which interpretation shall I adhere to?"
So, for the non-Muslim on the Street, don't be surprised if you see Muslims behaving in several ways, quite different from each other in terms of observing the injunctions of Allah ( not in terms of normal human characteristics and habits!) Some pray diligently, some don't ( though required to). Some consider man & woman ( girl & boy) who are not related by blood shaking hands (let alone embrace each other) as "haram" (prohibited), others turn a blind eye for it has become a social necessity. Spying and evesdropping to seek the fallibility of others is prohibited in Islam. In fact even saying bad things about others is forbiddened. But, how else can "policing" work be undertaken? Spilling human blood, hurting people or even yourself, adultery, thefts, cheatings etc. are prohibited as in all religion. But this is the world, not heaven!
A short comment on polygamy. It was allowed at a time when men went to war and died leaving many widows behind. Alas the "visa" was not withdrawn since Islam under the Caliphs after the demise of the Prophet (bpuh) continued to be engaged in war. Even "Contract Marriage" or Mut'ah ( you pay the maskawin, live together for the contracted period then part company), was allowed then but the law haad not been rescinded though the act is now fobiddened.
There are four categories of sanctions under Islam: Permissable ( Halal), Prohibitted (Haram,) Disliked ( Makruh) and Necessary or just okay ( Mubah). The first two categories are reinforced through the laws of a country but the fourth, and even the third, are too all-ambracing to regulate. So, that's were the zone of freedom is. Smoking is considered as Makruh by some but Haram by others and in between cigarettes continued to be sold like teh tarik in Malaysia. Liqour is Haram but okay for medical purposes. Under emergency situation, a Muslim is allowed to bend a rule, like not fasting in Ramadhan because of gastric, eating something that's haram when ther's nothing else to eat,etc. But bending the rule under emergency situation is not breaking it. No go there!
Hey, is that enough for now? Let us see what other more learned Muslims have got to say about this Street view of Islam. The Ulamas might come in with their war song. But I'm only writing this for the bloggers so that they won't be baffled by the idiosyncrasies of their Muslim friends.